i really liked the Graceling Realm series and was quite satisfied with its conclusion. i loved the characters and getting to see everyone from Graceling and Fire from a new perspective. Bitterblue is a good read if you can get over one flaw: the beginning. (obviously, I did, but still.)
it started very slowly with Bitterblue constantly doing nothing but signing paperwork all the time. and you have to wonder how it is that a girl of 18, who was very precocious at 10, never got curious enough in EIGHT YEARS to explore her own castle, let alone her kingdom. i’m an adult and i get curious after eight MINUTES. every time Bitterblue’s age, the amount of years passed, or how Bitterblue spent her time was mentioned, I again expected to get some kind of explanation as to what would make her so patient. I just don’t find it true to the character, as smart and strong as she is, to have been so meek for so long. especially someone who is apparently adept at knowing how how to make her advisers flustered enough to leave her be. it’s unbelievable that she never went exploring- again, in her own castle- during these respites. i think she easily could have been as ignorant and naive as was necessary for the story and still have snuck around the grounds now and again. with such overprotective advisers, it would even have made sense if she had avoided people so no one could tell on her. and it would be fitting that someone used to sneaking around her own castle for so long would finally get emboldened to venture outside her walls and be confident she could manage moving around undetected. but if you can get over that, it ends up being a fun story.
it was strange seeing characters from a different perspective. after having read from the perspective of Katsa in the first book, it’s very odd to see her from an outside view, where it wasn’t that odd to see Fire at all. i could almost fill in some of Katsa’s thoughts and feelings during her time in the tunnels, which was actually good because i wasn’t left wishing I could see that part of the story.
i feel rather bad for Po, though, during these stories. he always seems to spend the majority of the time miserable and/or bedridden. and i also feel bad for Teddy in this book. he’s pretty much everyone’s tool. he chats up a pretty girl in a pub against the wishes of his best friend, only to have said friend and the pretty girl fall in love. he gets stabbed and then gets his house partially burned down from his forgiveness and continued involvement with the pretty girl. he’s going to be the surrogate father of his lesbian sister’s baby (remember when Bitterblue wonders if he and Bren are sweet on each other, then Po later tells her about their plan?). and in the end, he gets to work two jobs because it’s out of character for him to turn down the Queen (the pretty girl) when she asks him to be head of one of her ministries.
also, i felt satisfyingly horrified whenever Leck was mentioned. i liked that he was still a frightening character a decade after his death. and i liked the big reveal about Bitterblue’s advisers. when you think they just had to do the patch up work after Leck had his fun, you already can understand why they’re so damaged. but when you find out that Leck made them do the horrible things- *winces* *shivers*- it was a surprising confession. it was weird to feel so much revulsion and pity at once.
of late, i’ve rather taken to happy endings. not sappy ones, but i kind of like when the hero/ine gets the girl/guy. though i suppose i would be complaining about a sappy, saccharine ending now if Bitterblue had ended up with Saf. and after all, it’s implied that she ends up with him down the road, anyway. so i guess that’s ok.